Merck (MRK) is up 7% after the company announced positive results from a lung cancer trial this morning. This is a big move for a $170 billion company pharmaceutical company. Merck said that the pivotal Phase 3 KEYNOTE-189 trial investigating Keytruda, Merck's anti-PD-1 therapy, in combination with Alimta and cisplatin or carboplatin, for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), met its dual primary endpoints of overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS).
While no actual data was disclosed today, the Independent Data Monitoring Committee determined that the trial was successful -- the data wasn't supposed to read out until early 2019. This news solidifies Merck's dominant position in the lung cancer market, which is the most common form of cancer.
The stock got hit in late October after the company withdrew its European application for Keytruda in combination with pemetrexed and carboplatin as a first-line treatment for metastatic nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), opening the door for rivals. Today's news swings the market back in Merck's favor.
Last quarter, Merck's Keytruda sale grew 194% year-over-year to $1.05 billion. While sales of Keytruda still trail Bristol-Myers' (BMY) rival checkpoint inhibitor drug Opdivo, Keytruda is expected to take the lead soon because of the strong position in lung cancer. Astra-Zeneca (AZN) and Roche (RHHBY) also have immune-oncology assets that were in the fray.
Merck will report fourth quarter results on Friday, February 2. The company will also give its initial guidance for fiscal 2018.